May 15, 2008

Life without Loquats

I went out to dinner with some friends at Lalime's in Berkeley last night -- very tasty-- and we were chatting about how it's loquat season again. My friend Katherine was saying how much she loves them, but her neighbor steals all of the reachable ones off the tree just as they're about to reach the perfect ripeness.

I love a loquat. I have a whole history with the fruit, about which I once wrote a poem. This is what I was telling my friends at dinner-- even though they already know this, but who else is going to listen to a gal repeat herself if not her friends-- when Katherine chirped in that she's going to take some back to her family in Wisconsin because they don't have them there. Then it hit me: No loquats in Massachusetts. Too wet, too cold, too dagnabbed shady.

But then I thought maybe this was just like the hummingbird fiasco, and it will all turn out alright in the end. Nope. I found this tidbit by Rachel at The Jew and the Carrot blog:

"Oh, I miss loquats! They grow wild all over San Antonio, Texas, where I was born and reared. I ate them by the basketfull when I was a kid. I miss them terribly, living here in New England. Much as I love my adopted home of western Massachusetts, loquats make me nostalgic for what used to be home."

So, that's that. Luckily, R and I had an appointment with our lovely therapist today, and she said I really just need to start planning my vacations back to California so that I'm not thinking of myself as exiled forever from the things and people I love. Wise woman. So I'm planning to return in loquat season and feeling a bit perkier.

In the meantime, here is my poem in honor of the loquat:

Eriobotrya Japonica


Melanie’s older brother called us Fish and
Smelly and lifted us to reach the fruit
on low branches with leaves like dark green canoes —
loquats the size of peaches in our cupped hands.
The first bite revealed a bright seed,
brown and wet as a pony’s eye.


George was an alley cat,
loquat colored with milk splashed
across his chest. I sat under that fruit tree,
spit seeds in large arcs across the lawn,
and called every boy’s name I knew
until he recognized his own.
I don’t know if he was a boy.
Dad pulled a loquat from the tree,
made a rock of it.


We rode bicycles to Chico airport,
watched a toy-size plane fly close to us
while we drank Honey Run wine in the almond orchard.
I made scissors out of weeds,
pretended to shred my pants.

The sky was orange all over.
We took back roads home and found the fruit
scattered and squashed across asphalt,
their stink was sweet, and we
stopped to fill our pockets, our mouths.


Don’t mistake them.
They’re not the orange-rined kumquats,
but soft and tough and wooly,
and it’s their season again,
this ignored fruit with no shelf life.

The squirrels are wasteful—
they filch a loquat from the tree,
take one bite of the flesh,
drop it to the ground, thieve another.

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